Endangered Shark Meat Identified in Pet Foods Thanks to DNA Barcoding

Pet proprietors might unknowingly be feeding their pets with meat from endangered shark species, exhibits a new examine published in Frontiers in Marine Science. The scientists used DNA barcoding to look into the event of shark in diverse pet food items items ordered in Singapore, which uncovered a sizeable prevalence of ingredient mislabeling. They advised employing international specifications for pet food labels to steer clear of overexploitation of endangered sharks.

If you at any time browse the component checklist on your pet’s favored foods, you may well occur across ambiguous terms this kind of as ‘fish’, ‘ocean fish’, or ‘white bait’. Have you at any time questioned what accurately these ingredients are? A group of scientists at Yale-NUS School in Singapore analyzed pet food items products and solutions purchased in Singapore and discovered that these conditions may refer to endangered shark meat.

Shark population declines

Sharks are essential for the working of wholesome marine ecosystems. As apex predators, they are at the leading of the oceanic meals chain. Shifting their prey’s distribution, which changes the feeding method of other species, they preserve a balance of the food chain. The decline of sharks has led to the decline in seagrass beds and coral reefs.

The increasing shark fin and meat trade is placing shark populations at chance. Investigate implies that all-around 100m sharks may perhaps be killed annually. Overfishing is the most important threat to sharks worldwide, and a deficiency of powerful checking and administration of fishing practices adds load to susceptible shark species.

“Shark populations are overfished through the entire world, with declines of additional than 70% in the previous 50 decades documented. This is indicative of the current deficiency of regard in which we keep our oceans,” reported authors Dr Ben Wainwright and Ian French, of Yale-NUS Higher education.

Shark meat in everyday goods

A silent contributor to the decrease in shark populations is the use of shark products and solutions in day-to-day merchandise this kind of as pet food items and cosmetics. For case in point, several folks could not know that certain physique care and elegance solutions may use shark-derived squalene (as opposed to plant-derived squalane).

Investigation has also discovered shark meat in pet meals solutions. A prior 2019 research uncovered the event of shark in 78 pet food stuff samples gathered within just the US.

“Given the final results of a previous analyze performed in the US, we required to see if endangered sharks are also marketed in Asian pet food items,” defined the authors.

The researchers used DNA barcoding to examine whether there was shark DNA in 45 various pet foodstuff items from 16 distinct manufacturers on sale in Singapore.

“None of the merchandise obtained detailed shark as an ingredient, making use of only generic catch-all phrases these types of as ‘fish’, ‘ocean fish’, ‘white bait’ or ‘white fish’ to describe their contents,” claimed Wainwright and French.

Of the 144 samples taken, 31% contained shark DNA. The most discovered sharks had been the blue shark (Prionace glauca), adopted by the silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis), and the whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus).

The silky shark and the whitetip reef shark are stated as ‘vulnerable’ in the International Union for Conservation of Character (IUCN) Purple Checklist. The silky shark is also outlined in the Convention on Global Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix II, which implies that its trade must be managed to avoid overconsumption that would threaten survival of the species.

Clear labels

The final results exhibit the higher overfishing tension to which sharks are significantly subjected.

“The vast majority of pet entrepreneurs are likely fans of nature, and we assume most would be alarmed to learn that they could be unknowingly contributing to the overfishing of shark populations,” commented the authors.

The authors urge for much more transparency in the component labels of pet food stuff items. Staying away from obscure capture-all terms in ingredient lists to enable consumers to make educated acquiring alternatives and implementing world standards for pet foods labels are two ways to steer clear of shark overfishing.

A greater accountability all through human and pet foods seafood provide chains is needed, which would mitigate unsustainable fishing and resource use incompatible with shark populations survival.

Reference: French I, Wainwright BJ. DNA barcoding identifies endangered sharks in pet foodstuff bought in Singapore. Frontiers in Maritime Science. 20229. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2022.836941.

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